At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, Elements Compounding Pharmacy owner Priti Bhathella was diagnosed with a serious medical condition, and had to reduce her time at work while relying on her team to take on additional responsibilities.
But she instilled in her employees the values of patient care and compassion, so she knew she could count on them.
From left to right: Elements Compounding Pharmacy team members Tatjana Nastic, Juhi Bhathella, Ibrahim Osman, Priti Bhathella, Rachel Baird, Manesh Bhathella and Brittany MacMurchy.
(Chetan Sondagar photo)
1) How hard was it to step back when you knew your team would be facing the crisis that comes with a global pandemic?
Priti: They just kept the business going. Often times, they would say to themselves, what would Priti do? They are truly invested in our values – they know how I think. Even now, when I try to go in – I can still barely work due to my medical condition – I am impressed because my clients are all still there.
They have it really organized. They have taken more responsibility and ownership of a lot of the different tasks that used to fall on me. They also lean on each other and get things done.
Currently, I have four full-time staff. One thing I’m always looking for when we’re hiring is, first and foremost, honesty. We look for reliability, consistency and someone that is passionate about pharmacy.
2) How would you describe the workplace culture of your pharmacy?
Priti: When people come into our store, they can tell it’s a family-run business even though we’re not all related. You can feel it when you walk in – that we care about each other.
The one word that comes to mind, when I think about the culture of our pharmacy is respectful. That speaks volumes, because, I think in many places, a lot of people come into work and it’s not respectful.
We make sure that we’re there for each other. Especially this year, each of us has faced significant personal challenges, and we do our best to support each other through them. However, we are firm believers in the idea of helping others to find peace in our personal lives. You have to be aware of the people you work with, and the clients we serve, and develop good relationships.
Reliability, consistency and passion about pharmacy are the key traits pharmacist Priti Bhathella seeks when building her pharmacy team. From left to right: Brittany MacMurchy, Manesh Bhathella, Juhi Bhathella, Ibrahim Osman, Priti Bhathella and Tatjana Nastic.
(Chetan Sondagar photo)
3) What is the story behind Elements Compounding Pharmacy?
Priti: We started from the ground-up in September 2010. Prior to that, I spent 11 years working in a large corporate pharmacy, but I started asking myself, what is it that I really want to achieve as a pharmacist.
I found the thing I missed the most was interacting with patients. Really getting to know their file, what their problems were, and connecting with them on a personal level. My husband and I talked about it, and next thing you know we were opening the store.
When we opened the store, I really didn’t have an idea of what it meant to be a business owner. It just went so fast.
But the thing I have always enjoyed is the time I have with patients. Some of them, I call them my foundation clients. They are the ones who stood by us. When you open a pharmacy from scratch, you watch people walk by and wonder why they don’t bring the prescriptions to us?
And these foundation clients, they are the ones who got us started, they just kept coming. To this day, there are so many clients who were with us from when we opened, and since then, they have referred their friends over!
4) How has your pharmacy gone above and beyond to support the community, especially during the pandemic?
Priti: Sometimes, we will have patients who just can’t afford to pay for their medications. Some patients can’t afford to buy food. It can be really hard to turn people away. At times, we will extend credit to our patients – we know the patient can’t afford it and in my heart, I can’t watch them not have some sort of help. They need their medications.
We don’t do it blindly. Sometimes we do have to spend several hundred dollars to cover someone’s medications because of their situation. So we let them leave it on account. Sometimes, it takes them over a year to pay back, so we try to support them to make small payments on their account. Some patients can’t afford more than $10 per month – and it adds up quickly.
They are very grateful. At the end of the day, our goal is to figure out how to connect them with the right support systems.
5) Do you have any advice for your pharmacy team?
Priti: I just want to say how grateful I am that they bring 110% every day – they have taken on a global pandemic with grace, compassion, and determination. They look after the store, and the business, and the clients in my absence. I guess my biggest fear is that they’re carrying a heavy burden, I know what it’s like to carry that weight.
I want them to know, do the best you can, but also know when to step back. It can be exhausting. We all need that break from work and just being able to turn off, and it’s a lot easier said than done.